June 29 2006

The Freedom Of The Press

(edited to add some more thoughts at 9:00 PM CST)

Let me say up front, I believe in the “War on Terror”, even if I hate it’s name. I don’t abide terror in any of it’s forms. I have made my feelings on terrorists quite clear last July after the attacks in London.

That being said…(you knew that was coming)…the White House needs to lay off the New York Times for their story on a “secret” system of the banking of suspected terrorists being monitored. Why did I put “secret” in quotes? Well, 1 – 2 times a month I transfer funds to Japan for my business, and I have known of the “secret” monitoring since October of 2001. Everything about how we transferred funds changed after the Patriot Act started and I was informed of the “secret” program by multiple people. It wasn’t a secret folks. And if you don’t think the terrorists knew about it…please, join us in reality. (and for the lovely government officials who may see this, I was told “You know the government is scanning all these wire transfers now.” And I will provide a link at the bottom where the White House themselves told the world they were doing this.)

So why even bring this up? I think the media is being treated unfairly on several fronts. Firstly, the New York Times is the only paper being attacked. Why? Other papers, such as the Wall Street Journal, reported on the same story, but yet they are not being accused of “treason” (puh-lease). My suspicion is this all dates back to the story (free registration required) the Times did break back in December about the massive campaign of wire-tapping that angered the White House so much. So now, here is another story they can attack the Times about, but this time it is a story about something everyone knew what was going on.

The job of the press is to inform the public. The person guilty of “treason”, and I use the word lightly, is whomever “leaked” the information to the press, not the press themselves. I would point every one to the Bill Of Rights

“The government should not abridge freedom of the press”

If the press has to live in constant fear of what might be regarded as “treason”, there will be no “free press” left. The concern here should be the leak. not the reporting. If a piece of information is given to the press, with the exception of “off-the-record” pre-facing it, it has to be considered to be publishable. End of discussion. If the press begins second guessing themselves, we will begin a journey down a slippery slope we will never recover from.

I found a fascinating article by The Times on their website. It notes four other occurances of such things happening:

John Adams (1797-1801): During French Revolutionary War he signed Alien and Sedition Acts, making it illegal to criticise the President or Congress. Several editors arrested and indicted

Abraham Lincoln (1861-65): During civil war he enforced mail and press censorship. Military arrested editors who opposed the war and suspended publication of some newspapers

Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09): The New York World alleged corruption in acquisition of the Panama Canal. Publisher was charged with criminal libel

Richard Nixon (1969-74): The New York Times published excerpts of secret study on expanding military actions in Vietnam. Injunction prohibiting paper from printing any more was lifted by Supreme Court

Some will say I am attacking Republicans. No, I am not. I am attacking anyone who feels the freedom of the press should be stifled in any way, shape or form. If it was not for the press, who would officials be answerable to? If it was not for the press, how would the public be kept up-to-date on what their elected officials are actually doing?

Ask yourself this, if you believe in a curtailed press, if you believe these hard-working journalists should be brought up on charges, or censured, ask yourself one simple question…where would we be if The Washington Post had given in to White House pressure in the early 1970’s over their Watergate investigation? If Ben Bradlee had said “You know what Woodstein (his shortened name for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein), the White House really says we’re stepping on toes, maybe we shouldn’t pursue this.”, the Nixon administration would have walked away free-and-clear of the numerous laws they broke. The press has to, and must work, in a free environment.

If I seem passionate about this, it’s because I am. I was a member of the press, no matter how on the fringe it might have been, I was a member for 5 years. I know it’s not easy, I know you get pieces of info sometimes people don’t want published, but you have to make a judgement call. This, I am sorry to say, was the right thing to do. This was a story that the White House itself had admitted to back in 2001 (again, see the below linked story) and a story that everyone knew was going on. There are members of Congress calling for charges of treason, and I just don’t get it. I mean, it’s not like The New York Times gave away troop locations by drawing a map in the sand while on live tv, that would truly be insane and would really be putting troops in harms way and….oh….oops.

Now, as for the promised link. Thanks to Luis over at BlogD and The Washington Post for this link. As this is a White House press release, and not a copyrighted newspaper, I am allowed to republish the entire document:

The President has directed the first strike on the global terror network today by issuing an Executive Order to starve terrorists of their support funds. The Order expands the Treasury Department’s power to target the support structure of terrorist organizations, freeze the U.S. assets and block the U.S. transactions of terrorists and those that support them, and increases our ability to block U.S. assets of, and deny access to U.S. markets to, foreign banks who refuse to cooperate with U.S. authorities to identify and freeze terrorist assets abroad.

    Disrupting the Financial Infrastructure of Terrorism

* Targets all individuals and institutions linked to global terrorism.
* Allows the Treasury Department to freeze U.S. assets and block U.S. transactions of any person or institution associated with terrorists or terrorist organizations.
* Names specific individuals and organizations whose assets and transactions are to be blocked.
* Identifies charitable organizations that secretly funnel money to al-Qaeda.
* Provides donors information about charitable groups who fund terrorist organizations.
* States the President’s intent to punish those financial institutions at home and abroad that continue to provide resources and/or services to terrorist organizations.

    Authorities Broadened

The new Executive order broadens existing authority in three principal ways:

* It expands the coverage of existing Executive orders from terrorism in the Middle East to global terrorism;
* The Order expands the class of targeted groups to include all those who are “associated with” designated terrorist groups; and
* Establishes our ability to block the U.S. assets of, and deny access to U.S. markets to, those foreign banks that refuse to freeze terrorist assets.

    Blocking Terrorist Assets

* The Order prohibits U.S. transactions with those terrorist organizations, leaders, and corporate and charitable fronts listed in the Annex.
* Eleven terrorist organizations are listed in the Order, including organizations that make up the al-Qaeda network.
* A dozen terrorist leaders are listed, including Osama bin Ladin and his chief lieutenants, three charitable organizations, and one corporate front organization are identified as well.
* The Order authorizes the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury to make additional terrorist designations in the coming weeks and months.

    Other Actions in War on Terrorist Financing

This Executive Order is part of a broader strategy that we have developed for suppressing terrorist financing:

* A Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Center (FTAT) is up and running. The FTAT is a multi-agency task force that will identify the network of terrorist funding and freeze assets before new acts of terrorism take place.
* The President, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of State and others are working with our allies around the world to tackle the financial underpinnings of terrorism. We are working through the G-8 and the United Nations. Already, several of our allies, including Switzerland and Britain, have frozen accounts of suspected terrorists.

Um….does this mean we should bring the White House website up on treason charges? Just wondering.

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